Does Prednisone Cause Hind Leg Weakness in Dogs?

Prednisone is a powerful steroid medication commonly used to treat a variety of conditions in dogs, including inflammation and allergies. However, one of the potential side effects of prednisone use in dogs is hind leg weakness. This can be a concerning issue for pet owners and it is important to understand the reasons why this occurs.

Dog weak hind legs prednisone

Muscle Atrophy: One of the main reasons for hind leg weakness in dogs on prednisone is muscle atrophy. Prednisone can suppress the body’s ability to build muscle, leading to a loss of muscle mass in the hind legs. This can make it difficult for dogs to stand and walk, leading to weakness and instability.

Changes in Bone Density: Prednisone can also affect bone density in dogs, leading to a condition known as osteopenia. This can make the bones in the hind legs more prone to fractures and breaks, which can cause weakness and instability.

Neurological Effects: Prednisone can also affect the nervous system, leading to a condition known as polyneuropathy. This can cause muscle weakness, numbness, and tingling in the hind legs, making it difficult for dogs to stand and walk.

Suppression of the Immune System: Prednisone suppresses the immune system, which can lead to a host of secondary infections, one of which is a urinary tract infection. This can lead to hind leg weakness, caused by pain or discomfort in the lower back and hind legs.

Note that while prednisone can cause hind leg weakness in dogs, it is also an effective medication for treating a variety of conditions. If your dog is prescribed prednisone, monitor them for any signs of hind leg weakness and to report any concerns to your veterinarian. They may be able to adjust the dosage or switch to a different medication to mitigate these side effects.

Consult with your veterinarian before giving any medication to your dog and discuss all the potential side effects. And also, always keep a close eye on your dog’s behavior and physical condition, so you can spot any changes early on.

What causes sudden hind leg weakness in dogs?

Here are some possible causes of sudden hind leg weakness in dogs:

Degenerative myelopathy: This is a progressive disease that affects the spinal cord, leading to hind limb weakness and paralysis. It is most commonly seen in older dogs, particularly German Shepherds.

Intervertebral disc disease: This occurs when the cushions between the vertebrae in the spine herniate or rupture, putting pressure on the spinal cord. This can cause hind limb weakness, pain, and even paralysis.

Trauma: Trauma to the spinal cord, such as a fall or a blow to the back, can cause hind limb weakness or paralysis. This can occur suddenly and can be caused by a variety of factors, such as a car accident or a dog fight.

Toxins: Certain toxins, such as antifreeze or pesticides, can cause hind limb weakness or paralysis. Dogs that have been exposed to these toxins may show signs of weakness or paralysis within a few hours.

Neuromuscular disorders: Certain disorders, such as polyneuropathy or myasthenia gravis, can cause hind limb weakness or paralysis. These disorders affect the nerves and muscles, leading to weakness and difficulty moving.

Infections: Certain infections, such as distemper or Lyme disease, can cause hind limb weakness or paralysis. Dogs that have been infected with these diseases may show signs of weakness or paralysis within a few days.

Hind leg weakness can be a symptom of a variety of conditions, and a proper diagnosis should be made by a veterinarian. If your dog is showing signs of hind leg weakness, it is important to take them to the vet as soon as possible for an examination and diagnosis.

What are the side effects of prednisone for dogs?

Here are some potential side effects of prednisone for dogs:

Increased appetite and weight gain – Prednisone can cause dogs to feel hungrier than usual, which can lead to weight gain if their diet is not adjusted accordingly.

Panting and restlessness – Some dogs may experience panting or restlessness as a side effect of prednisone, which can be concerning for pet owners.

Diarrhea and vomiting – Prednisone can cause digestive upset in some dogs, leading to diarrhea or vomiting.

Increased thirst and urination – The medication can also cause dogs to drink more water and urinate more frequently, which can be a sign of kidney or bladder problems if not monitored closely.

Cushing’s syndrome – Long-term use of prednisone can lead to the development of Cushing’s syndrome, which is a condition characterized by symptoms such as hair loss, skin infections, and muscle weakness.

Behavioral changes – Some dogs may experience behavioral changes such as agitation or aggression as a side effect of prednisone.

Reduced immune function – Prednisone can suppress the immune system, making dogs more susceptible to infections and illnesses.

How can you reduce the side effects of prednisone in dogs?

Prednisone is a commonly prescribed steroid for dogs, but it can come with a variety of side effects, including increased appetite, weight gain, and panting. Here are a few tips to help reduce the side effects of prednisone in dogs:

Monitor your dog’s diet: Prednisone can cause an increase in appetite, leading to weight gain. To combat this, make sure to monitor your dog’s diet and keep their food portions under control.

Provide regular exercise: Regular exercise can help keep your dog’s weight in check and also helps to reduce panting.

Keep your dog hydrated: Panting can also be caused by dehydration, so make sure your dog has access to fresh water at all times.

Use a humidifier: Dry air can make panting worse, so consider using a humidifier in your home to increase moisture levels.

Ask your vet about alternative treatments: In some cases, prednisone may not be the best option for your dog. Talk to your vet about alternative treatments that may be more suitable for your dog’s condition.

Gradually wean your dog off of prednisone: Sudden discontinuation of prednisone can cause withdrawal symptoms, so it is important to wean your dog off the medication gradually under the guidance of your veterinarian.

Is there an alternative to prednisone for dogs?

There are several alternative options that can be considered for treating dogs with these types of conditions.

Apoquel – Apoquel is a newer medication that targets specific inflammation pathways in the body. It is often used as an alternative to prednisone for dogs with allergic skin conditions, and it has fewer side effects.

Cytopoint – Cytopoint is a monoclonal antibody injection that targets a specific protein involved in the inflammatory response. It can be used as an alternative to prednisone for dogs with atopic dermatitis and has been shown to be effective for several months.

Omega-3 fatty acids – Omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oil, can help reduce inflammation in the body and may be used as an adjunct to other treatments. It may be a good option for dogs with milder conditions or as a preventive measure.

Supplements – Some supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, may also help reduce inflammation in the body and may be used as an alternative or adjunct to prednisone.

  • Turmeric Curcumin  – Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant that can help support joint health and reduce pain.
  • Hemp Oil  – Hemp oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and can help reduce inflammation and support overall health.
  • Milk Thistle – Milk thistle is a herb that can help support liver function and remove toxins from the body.
  • Probiotics  – Probiotics can help support a healthy gut microbiome and improve overall health.
  • Glucosamine and Chondroitin – Glucosamine and chondroitin are supplements that can help support joint health and reduce inflammation.
  • CBD oil – CBD oil is derived from hemp plants and may help with anxiety, pain and inflammation.

Immunomodulators– Immunomodulators such as Atopica and Azathioprine could be used as an alternative to prednisone. They modulate the immune system and may be more appropriate in certain cases, such as autoimmune disorders.

Conclusion of prednisone for dogs

Prednisone is a steroid medication commonly used to treat a variety of conditions in dogs, such as inflammation, allergies, and immune-mediated diseases. While it can be effective in managing these conditions, there are also potential risks and side effects associated with its use.


Can reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms associated with various conditions

Can be used as a short-term or long-term treatment option

Available in both oral and injectable forms


Long-term use can lead to side effects such as weight gain, increased thirst and urination, and the potential for diabetes

Can suppress the immune system, making dogs more susceptible to infections

Regular monitoring and blood work is necessary to ensure safe use

Side effects:

Increased appetite and weight gain

Increased thirst and urination



Increased risk of infections

Cushing’s disease


High doses or prolonged use of prednisone can lead to toxicity, which can cause serious side effects such as liver and kidney damage.

Drug interactions:

Prednisone may interact with other medications, such as blood thinners and vaccines, increasing the risk of side effects. Inform the veterinarian of all medications and supplements being given to the dog.


Prednisone should not be used in dogs with certain underlying conditions such as Cushing’s disease, diabetes, or heart disease.

Pregnant and lactating females should not be treated with prednisone.

Research and study:

Studies have shown that prednisone can be an effective treatment for various conditions in dogs, but long-term use should be avoided when possible.

Alternative treatment options, such as immunomodulating drugs, should be considered for the long-term management of conditions.


Immunomodulating drugs such as azathioprine, ciclosporin, and mycophenolate mofetil

Omega-3 fatty acids


Allergen-specific immunotherapy

Consult with a veterinarian before starting any treatment for a dog, as they will be able to provide personalized recommendations based on the dog’s specific condition and medical history.


Hannah Elizabeth is an English animal behavior author, having written for several online publications. With a degree in Animal Behaviour and over a decade of practical animal husbandry experience, Hannah's articles cover everything from pet care to wildlife conservation. When she isn't creating content for blog posts, Hannah enjoys long walks with her Rottweiler cross Senna, reading fantasy novels and breeding aquarium shrimp.

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